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For Gianni Versace, his sister Donatella was always a golden girl. He proved that in 1995 – just two years before his death – when a hyper-glamorous figure, with tossed back blonde hair, launched a Richard Avedon campaign for a fragrance called Blonde.
And now she’s back! That pouting fashion princess from breast harness down to spike-heeled boots – although this time round she might be wearing sneakers taking the logo down to the feet.
So much has changed in 25 years. Yet there was Donatella, about to introduce her show as she perched on a stool decorated with a Medusa head. Gilding glinted in every direction around her as the eye was drawn to a giant, ceiling-high safety pin.
“A little bit of imperfection is the new perfection!” the designer proclaimed.
“The collection is luxury versus grandeur. Grandeur is an attitude, when people were deeply thinking and talking. I think we need to stop for a while and think again.”
Donatella must have been thinking a great deal before she sold the Versace company to Capri Holdings, an American group whose portfolio includes Michael Kors. What to show them in their first full season of ownership?
The answer must have been: the Versace house codes. For that was what hit the runway: fancy and flamboyant, slithering and sexy, although – in spite of Kurt Cobain’s band Nirvana on the soundtrack – with more gorgeousness than grunge.
The show even opened with a beige raincoat – although the padded sleeves were a rich gold and the house’s signature Barocco print patterned the lapels and lining. Some ‘sensible’ clothes followed: a marmalade jacket, a nut-brown trouser suit and a coat in tweed. On the more risqué side were a yellow bra worn on the outside of clothing – a relic of the Vivienne Westwood era – and a safety pin piercing the sweater (as on the invitation). Introduced as a fashion symbol by British designer Zandra Rhodes in 1977 and worn as part of a headline-making Versace dress by movie star Elizabeth Hurley in 1994, the safety pins became a Gianni trademark.
It took a while to realise that smart and energetic as the show was, it was all rooted in the last century. Even the models included Stephanie Seymour and Shalom Harlow – house favourites from the 1990s supermodel era – showing how their figures still slithered into the fluid drapes in rainbow colours.
Will all this please the millennials, who need to step forward and buy in order to push forward the Versace name into the third decade of the 21st century?
Looking closely at the collection, it seemed like a manifesto: a silken, multicoloured dress smothered in images of fragrance bottles; everything from handbag clips to necklaces cut into a ‘V’ for Versace.
The energy was uplifting and appealing, with Donatella’s self-deprecating wit keeping the balance between burlesque and beauty. May her energy only turn safety pins into gold.